In his next film, Patna Shukla, the actor will be seen alongside Raveena Tandon and the late Satish Kaushik
It doesn’t always happen that after one successful movie or series, your next project is also equally appreciated. But in the case of actor Jatin Goswami, it’s been an upward graph since the release of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz on ZEE5, where he acted alongside Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Often seen essaying negative characters on screen, the actor appeared in a completely different avatar (as Jeetendra Kumar - a loyal member of the Batra household) in the recently released Disney+ Hotstar show Gulmohar - starring Manoj Bajpayee, Sharmila Tagore and Amol Palekar, among other actors. His upcoming projects include Vivek Budakoti-directed Patna Shukla, where he will be seen alongside Raveena Tandon and the late Satish Kaushik.
In a candid chat with OTTplay, Jatin talks about why he thinks OTT is a game-changer when it comes to countering typecasting, his wish to be part of a Woody Allen style of movie, his fond memories of working with Manoj Bajpayee in Gulmohar and more. Excerpts:
Q. You have been around for a while, but it’s only in recent years that you were part of some really interesting projects like Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, The Great Indian Murder, Delhi Crime, Anek and now Gulmohar. What do you think is working in favour of you?
A. I don’t exactly know how this is happening, but I’m extremely glad that it is. You’re right, I think I came to the city [Mumbai] in 2008, and I had been trying to become an actor and trying to find work. It took me at least eight years to do that. In 2016, I got Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, and after that it has been a little easier. Things blossomed after 2019-2020 when OTT came into the picture. Suddenly, there was so much work for actors like me. So, I think it’s mainly because the stories have changed. Maybe, there was a change in the kind of scripts that were being written and the stories that were being told. The characters in those stories needed to be acted out by actors like me. Maybe because of that or maybe because now there’s a lot more work for writers, directors and actors, thanks to the OTT boom. Or else, maybe because I’m good!
Q. You have previously termed OTT a ‘game-changer’. When it comes to countering the problem of typecasting, how much do you think the digital medium has been helpful?
A. It takes a lot of effort for an actor to break the stereotype, because once people see you in a certain light, it’s easier for them to cast you in that, because they’ve seen you do it so well. Additionally, people don’t want to take a chance, because nobody wants to take too big a risk. They know that audiences have liked you in a certain way and they know that you can do that well. So, either it takes a lot of guts from the producer, director or the actor, who has to say no to a lot of work, because he wants to change his image or wait for a different character to play on screen. But with the emergence of OTT, so many more stories are being told, so the same actors can be cast for different roles now. I also see that writers, directors and producers are taking a chance on that. They’re taking that risk. They’re no longer following a formula. Of course, there are people who are making content on crime, then suddenly there are so many stories about spies or say gangsters in UP. But you would also see a story like Gulmohar, where makers would take a chance and cast someone like me, who had been doing a certain kind of work so far, and then cast me for a totally different role. So, I think, this is because of the amount of work that is happening.
Now, makers are interested in diversified work and experimenting with content. That’s another reason a lot of remakes are not working anymore. There is so much content available online that you can directly watch the original. The audience has now opened up to watching all kinds on different platforms; stories that are not only from different parts of India but also global. In fact, if the content is good, you will find an audience for that. So that’s why, suddenly the remakes were not working anymore. But at the same time, a series like Delhi Crime is watched globally. People from all over the world were messaging me to say that it’s extremely satisfying.
Q. Any role that you still aspire to do on screen in the near future?
A. The thing is that I am trained in theatre, and I’ve done a lot of stage work in the past, before going to the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). [He was at FTII, Pune from 2005 to 2007, and his batchmates included Rajkummar Rao, Jaideep Ahlawat, Vijay Varma and Sunny Hinduja]. So, even before coming to the industry, we had worked on almost all genres of storytelling and all kinds of characters. In a way, we have tackled things from say Shakespearen theatre to farcical and realistic theatre to everything. So, now when you’re working in films, it’s the same thing that you would aspire for. That said, I would probably like to be part of a comedy or something like a family drama, maybe a Woody Allen style of work, or something like No Country for Old Men.
Q. As you just said, you have done a fair bit of theatre as well. Are you still inclined to do plays
A. In India, theatre does not pay, and at some point of time, you have to decide on whether you want to continue doing plays or not. I don’t know what kind of theatre pays, but the kind that I have done, I was never paid enough. It’s a very difficult place to be where you’re working extremely hard year after year, but you do not get paid as much. And then you have to find side jobs. So, at some point, you have to make that decision that this cannot go on like that. Things have to change. It’s a pity that the situation is like this in India, otherwise, I was extremely happy doing theatre in Delhi [Jatin was doing TIE (Theatre in Education) with Barry John]. It was only then that I really pushed myself to change and do something else. That’s when I decided that I should train myself to get into films, and I eventually joined FTII. After that I came to Mumbai. My only ambition was to make a living from acting, because I didn’t want to find another day job and keep acting as a hobby in the evening. I wanted to be a professional actor, and I wanted to pay my bills through acting.
So, yeah, I do watch theatre sometimes, but not very often. I do miss the stage, though. There’s a part of your mind that is always thinking about picking up a play. And that I’ve done, in fact. Even when I was in Mumbai, I would find a story or a short play or something and then, on the side, rehearse it with a few friends, find a hall, invite 40-50 friends and just perform in front of them. So, I would always do something like this, but not like professional theatre. Because a good play also requires a lot of commitment.
Q. With OTT providing a medium for all kinds of talents, do you think the industry finally belongs to actors and not just stars?
A. I think now actors are also becoming stars, and that’s a good thing. But you would still need a bankable actor, someone who would carry the story on their back. Even though it is more a democratic scenario now, makers would still want a certain kind of actor who would carry the burden of the project. Very seldom do we see someone who is extremely new or lesser-known being picked and given a central part in a big film. I don’t think that has changed. But yes, I think that a lot of people are getting opportunities to prove themselves through some really good work. So, the possibility of an outsider to reach that space is much more now.
Q. But in the recent past, we have also seen several films with a huge star cast - Pathaan is an exception, of course - failing. What would be your comment on that?
A. I don’t think that those films have failed because of the actors. It’s not the decision of the actor as to what the story is going to be or how it is going to be told. The actor is just someone who is a part of the whole project. So, I don’t think it’s right to put the blame for a film not working on an actor alone. Movies are a collaborative form of art, and everyone has a say in the making of it. An actor could be one of the reasons the film did not perform well, but it cannot be his responsibility alone. And the other thing is that if some films are not working, it is because of the content, the stories that we are telling, and not because the actors are doing bad work.
Sometimes, it’s also because the audiences are not relating to the story as much as they would want to. Or maybe, they want a different kind of story and a different treatment to it, or maybe they want to see larger-than-life characters.
Q. You were recently seen alongside Sharmila Tagore in Gulmohar. We are seeing Zeenat Aman making a comeback, while Suniel Shetty has already returned as an action star. What do you think about legends making a comeback through OTT?
A. I think that’s amazing because actors of different age groups have so much to say and so much to give. It’s just that because maybe earlier there used to be a formula that everyone would like to follow. That’s why most stories were about youngsters or people in their 20s and 30s. But there are so many interesting stories in the world that are about different age groups and about people from different backgrounds that can engage an audience. And that is what OTT has done. You see someone like Madhuri Dixit or Raveena Tandon, Juhi Chawla or Sunil Shetty or now Sharmilaji back on screen. All these actors are so great, and have so much more to give and say. It’s amazing to see these people coming back to the set.
Also, more stories should be told like that. The other day I was talking to someone that had been in a film, the character I played in The Great Indian Murder [Vicky Rai] would run for no more than two-three minutes. He would be part of the supporting cast, where it would be the hero who would be solving a case, but his guy’s story would not be there. But now, someone like that character too gets more length or screen time in an OTT show, spread across eight or more episodes. So, suddenly now those kinds of characters have also become part of the lead cast. Similarly, the characters that Ashutosh Rana [Jagganath Rai] or Raghuvir Yadav [Mohan Kumar] played would have been a very typical cliched kind of a part. But OTT has given those parts more respect, and now there is a backstory for them too. These roles have become meatier in the OTT space.
Q. In Gulmohar, you have worked with Manoj Bajpayee and Shamila Tagore. Any fond memory or special learning from the set…
A. What really amazed me the most was how from Day 1, Manoj sir made this whole experience of working together more than just us coming together to make something. He really paid attention to building a team, which eventually felt almost like a family. And something like this does not happen just randomly. There was a lot of effort put in by Manoj sir and our director Rahul V Chittella in this project.
We began the first day by sitting and reading together, following which there was a small workshop facilitated by Manoj sir. And by the end of the day, suddenly there was this huge bond between all of us. Then, we ended the day with a party, which went on until four in the morning.
So, what I learned from this was that because cinema is a collaborative art form, it is extremely important that when we work together, we work like a family. It also makes the whole experience so much more interesting and fulfilling. And that’s a huge takeaway for me. In fact, even now every member of the cast and crew is very special to me. And that’s because Rahul and Manoj sir made it a point for us all to work like that. I think the camaraderie and bond that we shared with each other on the set is important because it made a lot of difference to the final product.
Q. You were working on the upcoming film Patna Shukla with Satish Kaushikji…
A. For me, it hasn’t really sunk in yet that Satishji is no longer with us. He was extremely special to me. He was positive, supportive and a very encouraging person. When you live in a city where you don’t know many people, and a legendary person like him comes and connects with you, and speaks such kind words to you, it means a lot. We used to sit together and talk about his journey. There were days when he would also narrate stories to me, discuss his next project. We have lost a very inspiring person.